How to stop your inner critic from holding you back

Your inner critic is the annoying voice inside your head that whispers mean things to you. It’s holding you back from trying new things, putting yourself out there and living the creative life you dream of – so I made this video to help.

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THANK YOU for visiting my website! I’m Laura Kidd, a music producer, songwriter and podcaster based in Bristol, UK. It’s great to meet you.

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How to stop your inner critic from holding you back
TRANSCRIPT

Have you ever thought you were good enough?

The Inner Critic is a name for the voice we all have inside. You know, the one that says you don’t deserve this, or you can’t do that…you’re no good, you’re bad, wrong, inadequate, worthless.

Inner Critic: “Ughhhh, who do you think you are anyway?”

Laura: “Yeah ok, but I was just talking to this person about -“

Inner Critic: “And what do you know about popular psychology? You’re supposed to be a musician aren’t you?”

Laura: “Well yes, but I want to help this person here with -“

Inner Critic: “And not a very good musician either, are you HAHAHA…”

Laura: “Come on now, that’s just mean…”

Inner Critic: “And you’ve got funny teeth and your hair is rubbish and your nose is too small and -“

Laura: “Enough! Enough! Okay, okay. I won’t do it, I give up. You win. Again.”

Inner Critic: “HAHA I knew you didn’t have the guts to try something new.

===

I think I tricked it…it’s gone for now, but I’d better be quick before it gets back and starts up again.

Let’s be frank here: your inner critic, your inner voice, your ego, Steve – whatever you want to call it – can be a nasty little monster – and like opinions, everyone’s got one.

It can really get in the way – increasing our feelings of anxiety, lowering our self worth, even making us hate ourselves. It can stop us from feeling brave enough to try new things, and tell us all sorts of lies about ourselves.

I’m not saying that every single person watching this video isn’t an awful human being – statistically speaking, there have to be some arseholes tuning in, but you’re obviously not one of those, so I’m here to help.

What are we going to do about this gross, intrusive little creature? We’re going to slay it. Not in the modern sense of the phrase “to slay”…but in the medieval sense, you know? We’re going to fight back, basically.

It makes me really sad thinking about all the music, drawings, photographs, videos, books and who knows what else that might not get made because their potential creators feel unable to get started.

On Instagram Stories recently, I asked the question: “What’s currently stopping you from embarking on your next creative project?”

The answers were interesting…and quite repetitive:

  • I don’t have time
  • I don’t have any talent
  • Lack of money and equipment
  • Children
  • Money and time
  • My day job
  • A loss of confidence
  • Talent and ability
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Lack of time
  • Time
  • Lack of energy from my day job – and money
  • Learning how to use my equipment
  • Me and my brain

Now these are mostly lies – lies and excuses. Now, I don’t blame the lovely people who wrote these to me, not one bit – they’re great people, and so are you! BUT the more I read through that list and thought about what those simple sentences were really saying, the more I realised…that bloody inner critic was speaking for them!

I really am here to help, so I worked through the list and divided the lies and excuses into four categories:

  1. Lack of money / equipment
  2. Lack of talent
  3. Lack of technical knowledge
  4. Lack of time

I get it, I really do. I’ve told myself all of these things in the past, and more, and truly meant them. Let’s take a closer look at this list:

  1. Lack of money / equipment

You need equipment to do your creative thing, and you need money to get the equipment. Or, you need more money to give you the time off work to spend on your creative thing. You don’t have the money, so you can’t do the creative thing. 

Why this is your inner critic talking, and how to shut it up.

The fanciest camera, shiniest guitar or poshest pen in the universe does not have the power to make your work good. Only you have that power, and you can absolutely find a cheaper way of getting started. Could you borrow equipment from a friend, or save up gradually over time and get a second hand version off eBay? I think you could. That’s how I got started. 

We can’t always start off with the perfect set of tools, but we can start. I am so thankful to have this room to work in now, but when I started recording my own music 16 years ago, it was in this corner of my bedroom in a shared flat above a cafe in South London, and I made it work.

2. Lack of talent

“But I wasn’t born with the innate ability to write the novel of my generation, or play the trumpet, or paint a photo realistic picture of a dog wearing a crown!”

Me neither, me neither. Guess what – my first dozen songs SUCKED. Seriously. But why should they have been great?

Why this is your inner critic talking, and how to shut it up.

We see the finished versions of other peoples’ projects, and compare what we think we’re capable of to that. What we think we’re capable of is very often far below what we’re actually capable of, or could be capable of if we pushed ourselves, or studied the thing we want to get good at, or worked with a coach.

Talent is seriously overrated – what actually matters is doing stuff. Turning up consistently and doing the work. You only get better by doing stuff. So…do stuff.

3. Lack of technical knowledge

It’s overwhelming when you want to do something but you know you don’t know how to do it. Perhaps you need to learn how to use some software, or hardware, but you’re not sure which software to get and anyway if you did get it you don’t know how it works and – “Screw it, I’m not doing it! It’s too hard, and that voice in my head keeps telling me I’d be no good at it anyway”.

Why this is your inner critic talking, and how to shut it up.

There has never been a better time to not know how to do something, because it couldn’t be easier to learn how to do pretty much anything, usually for free, on the internet. 

Are you absolutely sure you could never learn how to do that new thing? But…you learned how to do that other thing, didn’t you? In fact, everything you can do now, you learned at some point in your life. You can learn. You have learned. You will learn again. And look, you’re in exactly the right place to actually do some learning – for free! Are you…learning now?!

Every time I realise I don’t know how to do something in whatever software I’m using – Photoshop, Final Cut Pro, Logic, Apple Notes – whatever – I take a moment to formulate the question I would ask a tech support person, if there was one to hand, and then I type that question into YouTube. You just have to figure out what the question is, and the answer usually isn’t too far away. Someone else has learned the thing you want to learn, and has had questions about it too.

Other places you can try include online course platforms like Skillshare and Masterclass – I have a paid subscription to both of those – and of course, books and teachers and whatnot. I know your inner critic wants to catch me out and tell me I’m wrong, or I’ve forgotten one but hey, I’m just saying it’s very easy to dip your toe in the water of learning new things right here, for nought pence, or in those other places, for some very well spent pounds, if you have them.

4. Lack of time

You’re so busy – life is full. There’s so much to juggle – you need to earn money to pay for food and housing, perhaps support a family. There’s no time left to do anything that doesn’t support that – you might even feel that putting aside time for your own interests would be selfish.

Why this is your inner critic talking, and how to shut it up.

I’m not going to try to be charmingly rude about this one, because it’s a very sensitive subject. But here’s how I look at it: I believe that I only get one shot at life, and I want to make it count. When I’m older I don’t want to regret all the things I never tried – I find that idea very depressing. This is not to say that I have no care for personal responsibilities; I have always earned all my own money and paid my own way in life, but I have made it a priority to show up consistently and put a bit of time in here and there to inch slowly – sometimes very slowly – towards my goals.

We have so much more choice than we might think about how we spend our time. Be really honest with yourself. What could you cut back on?

It might seem like we need long stretches of uninterrupted time to be creative: the perfect day where we don’t have to do anything else; where we wake up on exactly the right side of the bed after exactly the right amount of beautiful, restful sleep; where the weather is exactly as we like it, with the temperature is just so; where we have access to every single piece of shining equipment we could ever dream of, which we know exactly how to use, and is all set up and working perfectly, ready to respond to our great inspiration… But if everyone waited for these pretty weird conditions to be met, next to nothing would ever be made.

So many great novels have been written in half hour chunks before the writer went to work for the day, so many songs written in snatched moments between work time and family commitments.

Creativity is all about limitations: mediums, formats, edges. Carve out 15 minutes here, half an hour there, two hours over there, and just keep chipping away at it. It’ll feel way better than waiting for the perfect day, I promise.

How to slay your inner critic

I’ve gone through all four of your top creative barriers and neatly debunked them all, but it’s not as simple as all that, is it? Watching a woman talk at you on the internet will not fix all of your problems, though I do hope it’s helped a bit to find out that you’re not the only person dealing with this nonsense on a daily basis.

Can I tell you a secret? When I was planning this video I suddenly found lots of time to tidy my room, clean the kitchen and get the laundry done, which are the three things I probably care about the least in life. I know from experience that whenever I start fussing about in the kitchen I’m really just putting off doing something more important.

So, completing this video and uploading it will be a major achievement for me, and will really piss my Inner Critic off.

Speaking of which, it’s time to face up to that horrible creature and actually do something to…if not get rid of it, at least forcefully shush it so you can figure out what you’d like to do and actually get on with it.

It’s quite simple.

The next time you notice your inner critic saying something mean to you – take a pen and a piece of paper, and write it down. Then when it says something else – perhaps “Why are you writing this down, you weirdo?” – write that down as well. Keep adding to the list as and when you are informed by your Inner Critic that you don’t have the talent, the skills, the ability to learn new things, the time, the energy, the right gear, face, hair, teeth, shoes, or left earlobe to get going with whatever it is that you want to spend your precious, precious time on.

You’ve now reached the choose your own adventure part of this video. Only you can choose your path ahead.

Here’s the first option: rip the page or pages out of your notebook and crumple them up, while laughing derisively. You can tear the pages into shreds, you can (safely) light them on fire – you do you. Life is short! Have fun! Be careful with matches!

The second option is this: find a quiet 10 minutes to sit down in private and read through the list. Imagine that your closest friend has presented this list to you, saying it’s how they think about themselves. What would you say to them? Write that down. Be honest – no-one else is going to read this but you.

Next, imagine that someone you sort of thought you liked has presented this list to you, saying it’s what they think about you. What would you say to them? Write that down.

Then, go back to option 1 and laugh like a Bond villain.

We’re very good at telling ourselves all sorts of stories, which are usually presented as facts. But please try to remember – thoughts are not facts.

Your inner critic is a real thing to contend with, but it’s coming from inside you. The more you can identify, challenge and at least quiet down the chatter, the more you can give yourself permission to spend time on the things that really matter to you.

I hope this video helped you today. I really would love to hear about your creative goals, dreams, hopes and schemes in the comments below, and if you have any creative barriers I haven’t covered here, feel free to let me know about those.

I’ll be sharing more on creativity, mindful productivity and digital minimalism in future videos, so if you have any suggestions or questions, I’d love to read those too.

Thanks for watching, and good luck in the fight against your Inner Critic. You can do it.

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3 comments

  1. Phil Critchley says:

    OK, Can I cry now? Oh, too late. I think it was the plant in the washing machine that did it.
    I’m here with my day off, all by myself, rest of the family away, with my knock-off computer and my dirt-cheap ebay midi keyboards, 2nd hand usb microphone, massive TV plugged in and free DAW installed, all ready to record stuff. And then spent the last three hours watching the Olympics putting off the thing I’ve wanting to do all year, and reading emails from my favourite waste of time (I mean you, not that you’re a waste of time, at least not yours anyway!I think someone used that line in the 80’s? oh God I’m babbling now.), or so I told myself. The Fear is here… Actually, I might have to use that line… Thanks Laura, that might be the kick up the arse I needed.

    • Laura Kidd says:

      How did it go in the end yesterday, Phil? If it makes you feel better, I put off finishing that Inner Critic video for about three weeks – oh the irony….. You can do this, you know.

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